We often hear the expression, "There is no I in team!" Let's take another look at that. Where are the I's in team? To me, the first thing I think of is the individuals that make up the team. Some “I's” that are associated with the individual are individuality, initiative, imagination, insight and intrinsic motivation.
I know some of you are going to find this hard to believe, but individuals don't always agree on everything all the time! Individuality and respectfully differing opinions should be welcomed on the team. It makes us stop and think about why we should take one approach and not another. We have some creative people on our teams, so we shouldn't be surprised that there will be multiple (noncompatible) solutions offered. Perhaps we can splice and merge together from the solutions offered to create an even better solution!
It will help in these times of differing opinion to consider that the other person, like us, is working toward the same common goal. A shared vision for a common good has been embraced by the team. It is important that there be open, respectful communication within the team since there will be people with differing personalities and skill sets. In a team setting like this, we come to expect that individuals who are subject matter experts will work with other members to achieve the common goal and to mentor and help them grow as well. The individual is truly valuable in what they bring to the overall health of the team.
Our team members show initiative! If they spot or think of a potential problem, they will bring it to the manager’s attention and most likely already have thought of a solution. Individuals bring value to the team when they've exercised initiative to find a better way of completing a common task and share it with the team. For instance, if a team member demonstrates to the team a refactoring feature, or does something with an advanced language feature, the whole team benefits.
One of the most valued aspects of the individual is his or her imagination. Software development is a creative endeavor, especially UI design. The UI designer must think about how a user will interact with the software, keeping in mind principles such as "least surprise" and "expected default" and presenting a visually pleasing interface. The business layer developer must think about how the classes will work with each other and consider where inheritance and polymorphism make sense. The difficult part for managers is knowing when and how to interject their own individual view on the solution.
Our team members bring valuable insight into our business processes. It is especially true that, in information technology, our development teams gain a deeper insight and understanding of the business practices the longer they have been with the organization. Oftentimes this insight can answer the question, "Why?" Be sure to create an environment that fosters true teamwork, pairing and cross training among all people on the team.
This individual we have been discussing is also likely intrinsically motivated to achieve his or her job goals and to continue professional development, while being a professional and doing high-quality work. Software standards and processes can be mandated and taught. However, until they become an intrinsic part of the individual’s personal software process, the team will not see the benefit.
A team is not merely the sum of the individuals that make up the team. I believe when you look at truly productive teams, you will find an environment of communication and shared vision working toward a goal of common good.